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I made it...the BIG 6-0

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    I made it...the BIG 6-0

    Well, here it is. October 26 is the 60th anniversary of my trampoline miscue. I have done a lot of slipping and sliding the last 3-4 years but I can still savor the beautiful fall skies here in Carolina. The past week has had some emotional moments. I have received a few e-notes from some of my classmates who witnessed my injury. The impact was more widespread than I ever imagined. Some of them harbored anger at our gym teacher for years. For others the event overshadowed the good memories of their high school experience. I am so grateful that my wife and I attended the 20 year class reunion, the fist of several that followed. It gave them the opportunity to see that my life had been salvaged. From that time forward they were able to think of me with a smile rather than sink to a somber depressed state. The class has been amazingly close-knit ever since.

    This being one of those milestone anniversaries has caused me to be a bit more reflective than usual. I jotted down some of the bits and pieces from the last 60 years.

    All in the life of one SCI

    Under the knife
    1954 - Laminectomy (c5, c6, c7) following spinal cord injury
    Suprapubic cystostomy
    1955 - Transurethral resection
    1963 - Subtotal gastrectomy (2/3) The result of a medication error
    1970 - Ileal conduit construction and cystectomy
    2000 - Orchiectomy (r) with a subsequent diagnosis of testicular cancer
    2001 - Fixation (r) femur following fracture
    2004 - Fixation (r) femur following fracture
    2006 - Removal (l) femur head due to hip infection
    2011 - Fixation (l) femur following fracture

    Off the record
    Mid-1980s ? Concussion. Went over backwards wheeling up a curbcut and planted the back of my head in an asphalt parking lot. The x-rays revealed no fracture. However two weeks later I lost much of my sense of smell. That is not uncommon following a significant concussion. I have recovered much of my sense of smell but still cannot smell onions and garlic.

    Some highlights
    1955 - Began physical rehabilitation at the Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation
    1956 - Began vocational rehab at the Woodrow Wilson Rehabilitation Center
    1961 - First fulltime residential wheelchair using student at the University of
    1965 - Married
    1966 _Began my first fulltime job as a rehab staff and patient educator
    1968 Promoted to administrator of rehab services unit
    1979 - Ph.D.
    1985 - Started ?People Friendly Technology? to sell my software: first software sold was ?Wheelchair Odyssey,? a game to sensitize players to the trials and tribulations of wheelchair users.
    1994 - Published first book
    2001 - Retired from the University of South Carolina School of Medicine
    2003 - One of my plays was the winner of the Theatre Charlotte Playwrights? Festival

    Some random thoughts
    From 1955 to 1965 the PA Department of Vocational Rehabilitation spent about $35,000 on my physical and vocational rehabilitation. By1975 I paid that amount in Federal and state income taxes adjusting for inflation.

    The establishment and use of intensive care units in the U.S.A. did not become widespread until the late 1960s.Most of the early units had only 4-6 beds and were used to treat critical cardiac patients. The technology used in today?s ICUs did not exist back then. I have never been an ICU patient.

    To date, I have outlived 56 of my 142 high school classmates.

    The song that hit the charts when I ventured into the SCI world was ?Mr. Sandman? sung by the Chordettes.

    Just what I needed?a song about loneliness. I probably listened to that song more than 1000 times as it played on the radio on my hospital bedside stand. I could not turn the radio on or off. Even my later concussion did not dislodge the memory from my brain. I believe that even after I am cremated that tune will somehow rise from the ashes. lol

    Close calls with the grim reaper

    In April 1955 I was sent home from the hospital to die. At the onset of my SCI I weighed 180 lbs. When I was discharged I weighed 97 lbs. and had stage 4 pressure sores on my sacrum, and hips, and stage 3s on my heels and calves. With my father?s tough-love and my mother?s 24/7 nursing care and cooking the downward trajectory was reversed. In October the sores were all healed and I found myself on a plane headed for Kessler.

    In November 1955 my temperature reached 106 F due to infection following a a Newark, NJ hospital. I was saved by a nurse who bathed me with a mixture of ice water and alcohol for more than 24 hours straight in her 20+ bed ward. She did that voluntarily because she cared. I later learned that she did not get paid for the extra shifts. The Crippled Children?s Hospital in Newark was an unbelievable hell-hole.

    In August, 1963 I began to have gastric hemorrhaging following a routine GU evaluation consisting of an IV pyelogram, cystoscopy, and cystometrics. I had been placed on an antibiotic regimen, which was part of the evaluation protocol. Following the procedure I was mistakenly given a potent steroid instead of the antibiotic. About a half hour after taking the pill I began vomiting bright red blood. In the following two and a half days I went through 27 units of blood. Finally out of complete desperation a surgical team removed approximately 2/3 of my stomach hoping that the site from which I was hemorrhaging was in the portion they removed. They guessed correctly and I was quickly on the mend. I was upset because the ?inconvenience? caused me to miss the first three days of the fall semester at Pitt.

    That is enough. Please join me in a toast this evening ?to the good times yet to come.?
    You will find a guide to preserving shoulder function @

    See my personal webpage @

    Happy anniversary!
    "It is every man's obligation to put back into the world at least the equivalent of what he takes out of it. Try not to become a man of success but rather try to become a man of value." - Albert Einstein



      Thanks for leading the way. Wishing you many more GOOD years.

      And thanks to you and everyone else out there living life and leading the way ahead of the rest of us. If it wasn't for you all making your way in a world made for ABs before some of us were even born lots of the legislation and accessibility we get to take for granted wouldn't be here.


        Happy Anniversary!!! Sounds like a great productive life in spite of SCI. Wishing you many, many more years of a life well lived.


          Congratulations! I wish you many more years of good health!


            Good deal! That had to take a monumental amount of patience.


              Congrats on your survival, Bob. You are a true pioneer for the SCI community. Thanks for sharing your wisdom and experience with us all here at CareCure!

              The SCI-Nurses are advanced practice nurses specializing in SCI/D care. They are available to answer questions, provide education, and make suggestions which you should always discuss with your physician/primary health care provider before implementing. Medical diagnosis is not provided, nor do the SCI-Nurses provide nursing or medical care through their responses on the CareCure forums.


                Awesome! Here's to many more years.
                There's always something magic, there's always something true. And when you really, really need it the most, that's when rock 'n roll dreams come true. Meat Loaf


                  Read through your 60 years. You are tough as nails.
                  I have had periodic paralysis all my life. I lost my ability to walk in 2011 beginning with a spinal block, which was used for a hip fracture caused by periodic paralysis.


                    I won't celebrate your sixty years. Sixty years living with a spinal cord injury sucks. I won't congratulate anyone for being unfortunate enough to live with that. I'm sure you don't mean it this way. But for anyone out there who thinks there is anything heroic or noble about being a victim, you are wrong.

                    I will, however, congratulate you on your ability to adapt and overcome in the face of one of life's great and terrible obstacles. And with all my heart, I celebrate your future. May that future, indeed, bring you happiness and fulfillment worthy of your fight. You sir…are no victim!


                      Congratulations on Hanging in there for 60, now to to shoot for 65!!
                      Don - Grad Student Emeritus
                      T3 ASIA A 27 years post injury


                        Holy shit, reading this sure gave me pause. So basically you're the first SCI to live beyond a few days back in the day that the only thing known about SCI is that it sucked and then you die.


                          Btw, congrats for surviving. You're the real deal. You earned the prefix "sir" around here.


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                            All the best,
                            GJ and NL


                              Congratulations - I am so impressed by your story - you are made of steel figuratively.